In 1870 Francis Thompson wrote a poem about the grace of God that relentlessly pursues His people. The famous poem is called “The Hound of Heaven.”
I FLED Him, down the nights and down the days;
I fled Him, down the arches of the years;
I fled Him, down the labyrinthine ways
Of my own mind; and in the mist of tears
I hid from Him, and under running laughter.
Up vistaed hopes I sped;
And shot, precipitated,
Adown Titanic glooms of chasmèd fears,
From those strong Feet that followed, followed after.
But with unhurrying chase,
And unperturbèd pace,
Deliberate speed, majestic instancy,
They beat—and a Voice beat
More instant than the Feet—
‘All things betray thee, who betrayest Me.’
Check out the complete poem here.
In studying the book of Jonah this aspect of God’s character (His unrelenting and amazing grace) has been something I’ve been thinking a great deal about lately. Although Thompson’s poem wasn’t written until the 19th century, I always associate the testimony of Saint Augustine with the idea of the “Hound of Heaven” (Admittedly, I think I’ve even mistakenly attributed that phrase to Augustine at one time or another).
Augustine was engaged in an incredibly depraved life when he heard a sermon from Bishop Ambrose. He started feeling immense conviction, as his telling of the story in his book Confessions illustrates:
So was I speaking and weeping in the most bitter contrition of my heart, when, lo! I heard from a neighboring house a voice, as of a boy or girl, I know not, chanting, and oft repeating, “Take up and read; Take up and read.” Instantly, my countenance altered . . . I arose; interpreting it to be no other than a command from God to open the Book [The New Testament], and read the first chapter I should find . . . I seized, opened, and in silence read that section on which my eyes first fell: “Not in rioting and drunkenness, not in chambering and wantonness, not in strife and envying; but put ye on the Lord Jesus Christ, and make not provision for the flesh” [Romans 13:13-14] . . . instantly at the end of this sentence, by a light . . . infused into my heart, all the darkness of doubt vanished away.
Our sin can never outpace God’s grace.